Friday, August 12, 2016

Transitions and disjunctions

I'm in a transitional stage with work projects at the moment.

The nature of my business is that I work with anywhere from one to four clients at a time, on projects that can be done partially or wholly at home (different projects require different levels of site attendance). Generally, I work on independent contractor agreements tied to the specific project (although one regular client now has me on an open-ended agreement where new projects can be added upon mutual consent).

Although my projects can, and do, vary in length and complexity, it's typical for me to work on any given project for at least 3 months, and usually more like 6-9 months. In 2016, this has meant that I have been with one client on Project A since last November; I've been with a second client on Project B since February; and client three, with Project C, started in early March.

Although there have been a couple of small one-off projects come and go in this time, it has meant that the vast preponderance of my work has been stable for the past almost 6 months. Yes, there has been substantial variation across weeks as to which project has got the most time and attention, as needs have dictated (that said, Project A is the uncontested front-runner in terms of hours overall). However, even within this variation, there has been the opportunity to strike up a rhythm and a norming of my work pattern. I've got to know the projects, the organisational staff, the expectations, the systems, and the objectives really well. I've gotten pretty comfortable, truth be told.

Well, over the past month (and in the month to come), things are going to be turned on their heads. Project A, while still ongoing, has geared down from being routinely 3 days a week to being about 1 day a week, as it cycles into its close-out phase. Project B has concluded - I delivered the final presentation and report, and sent the final invoice, this very morning, in fact. (An aside, but I was really happy with my work on Project B - I did my best and I was proud of the result. The client liked it too, which what matters the most!) Project C, due to staffing changes at the organisation involved, has disappeared into radio silence over the past fortnight, and I suspect will remain fallow for some time to come while they sort themselves out.

While all this is happening, I've been fortunate enough to secure a new project (let's call it ... Project D!) with the same organisation as Project A, but a different division and new people. Project D kicks off properly next week and will occupy as much time as I'm free to sell them until early October, then pause for a month, then back on to 2-3 days a week til Christmas. Simultaneously, I am negotiating with a new client for a Project E (that may or may not come to pass because Reasons, but it's something to be factored in). To ice the cake, the client from just-closed Project B would like me to do a smaller follow-up project (Project F, although let's hope not :-) in the October - December period.

What this means for me is that I am in a heavily transitional period in my work life. I'm in the set-up, get-a-handle-on-it, build-relationships phase with two new teams, and one new organisation, and the comfy old shoes of the people I've come to enjoy working with are no longer available to slip on each morning. (That's why I'm treasuring my remaining one day a week with the good folks at Project A - security blankie for sure!)

It's quite tiring, this phase - especially just coming off flu, as I am - although it's also quite exciting in its way. The lure of the fresh and new is real, as is the usual performance anxiety about whether or not I will be able to satisfy the expectations of the new projects. All in all, work occupies much more of my headspace at these times of change than when I am mid-project, and that's something to be aware of, and careful with, when it comes to maintaining balance and wellbeing.

Still, there's no denying it - having work sewn up through til Christmas is a very good thing, and I'm grateful. I know for sure now that I'll be OK to pay for things like two lots of high school fees in 2017 and house repair expenses we have coming up. That is awfully reassuring at the end of the day.

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